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Japan's DPJ party could reshape ties with US
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After a landslide victory that has reshaped the country's political landscape, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) could well now move to change policies toward the United States.

The DPJ threw out the Liberal Democratic Party, which had run the country for the past 54 years except for one 11-month period.

While analysts believe Japan will not change its relationship drastically with its long-time ally across the Pacific, most said the new leadership would push forward for some degree of change, having already voiced a desire to re-evaluate the Status of Forces Agreement.

The accord dictates how US troops are managed and other policies governing US troops stationed on the island state.

Some 47,000 US military personnel are stationed in Japan now at bases in Okinawa and elsewhere and US troops have been in the country since the end of World War II.

US forces have been unpopular with local residents for decades, who have voiced disapproval against incidents ranging from the noise of overhead aircraft to the rape of Japanese women by US soldiers.

In an infamous 1995 case, three US servicemen kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl, which sparked outrage among Japanese and led to a debate over continued presence of US forces in their country.

A perceived unequal relationship with Washington has for decades stuck in the craw of Japanese politicians and those Japanese civilians living near US military bases, although it is a non-issue for residents of far-away cities such as Tokyo and Osaka.

However, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Monday there would be no re-negotiation of the status of US forces in Okinawa.

Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute, said the DPJ could use its overwhelming majority in both the lower and upper houses of the Japanese parliament (diet) to change current laws governing the cross-Pacific alliance.

Rodger Baker, director of East Asia analysis at Strategic Forecasting, Inc. known for short as Stratfor, a global intelligence company, said DPJ would likely push Washington for an agreement that puts the two nations on a more equal footing when it comes to dealing with crimes committed by US soldiers in Japan.

That could include putting US military personnel up for trial in Japanese courts, he said.

While that occurred before -- the defendants in the 1995 rape case were handed over to the Japanese for trial -- US troops are more often than not exempt from the jurisdiction of local laws in foreign countries.

The new ruling party also looked likely to push the United States to foot a larger portion of the bill associated with US bases and troops in Japan, as Japan currently pays 40 percent of those costs.

"You want to be here more than we want you here, so you pay more" is the argument the DPJ would most likely present to US diplomats, Baker said.

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